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The multi-talented George Benjamin is back at the Holland Festival and back at the helm of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Regarded as one of the most important composers of his generation, certainly after the success of his operas Into the Little Hill and Written on Skin, the English composer conducts a programme with work of his own and compositions by Ravel, Ligeti and the young Scotswoman Helen Grime.
The programme opens with Grime’s composition Everyone Sang from 2010, followed by Benjamin’s first orchestral work Ringed by the Flat Horizon. György Ligeti’s Double Concerto features two RCO soloists, Kersten McCall and Lucas Macías Navarro. The concert is concluded by Maurice Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnole, in which he betrays his Basque roots with a broad gamut of tone-colour.
'Benjamin’s conducting is … spruce, fastidious, bristling with compact energy.’ – The Guardian
George Benjamin is one of the leading composers of his generation. He was admitted to the Paris Conservatory in 1976, where he studied composition with Olivier Messiaen and piano with Yvonne Loriod. He went on to complete his studies with Alexander Goehr at King’s College, Cambridge.
Benjamin has been commissioned to write compositions for renowned institutions, musicians and festivals, composing Antara to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Centre Pompidou in Paris and Three Inventions for Chamber Orchestra for the inauguration of the seventy-fifth Salzburg Festival. His work Palimpsest was performed by the London Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Pierre Boulez, opening a season-long retrospective of his music. Benjamin is also held in high regard as a composer of opera. His first work in this genre, Into the Little Hill, has been performed all over the world since it was premiered in 2006. Benjamin wrote his successful Written on Skin for a co-production by Dutch National Opera, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse.
Benjamin is also in high demand as a guest conductor, leading the Ensemble Modern, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra, among others. Since making his first appearance with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in 2003, he has been a regular guest, most recently in 2010 when he conducted works by Murail and Skryabin. Benjamin returns to the RCO in its 2013–14 season to lead it in his very first orchestral work, Ringed by the Flat Horizon, and Ravel.
Benjamin is a Chevalier in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and was awarded a CBE in 2010.
Lucas Macías Navarro took up the oboe partly because of his father, who was a big fan of Heinz Holliger. He himself was more drawn to the flute, but his father gave him an oboe on his tenth birthday.
Macías Navarro studied at the Conservatorio Superior de Música in Córdoba. At the age of sixteen, he enrolled at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, where he was accepted into the studio of his father’s idol. He continued his studies at the Herbert von Karajan Academy in Berlin and at the Geneva Conservatory with Maurice Bourgue.
He has won first prize at various international competitions, including that of the Sony Music Foundation in Tokyo, where he was also awarded the special Mozart prize.
Macías Navarro assumed the post of principal oboist of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in December 2007. He teaches at the Zaragoza Conservatory and gives masterclasses. He also holds the positions of first oboist of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and of principal oboist of the Orchestra Mozart. As a chamber musician, he performs at all the world’s major festivals.
The son of composer Brent McCall, the German flautist Kersten McCall grew up in Donaueschingen, where the Donaueschingen Festival for contemporary music is still held every October. It was in this rich musical environment that McCall took up the flute at the age of nine. He later studied with Felix Renggli at the Schaffhausen Conservatory in Basle and with Renate Greiss and Aurèle Nicolet at the Karlsruhe Hochschule für Musik. McCall won first prize at the 1997 Kobe International Flute Competition in Japan and third prize at the 2000 ARD International Music Competition.
McCall served as principal flautist of the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrücken, also having played in the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. He was appointed principal flautist of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in November 2005. McCall co-founded the ensemble est!est!!est!!! in 1995 and has been a member of the Linos Ensemble since 2000. He teaches at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague.
The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is one of the very best orchestras in the world, due to its unique sound and stylistic flexibility. Mariss Jansons was welcomed as the orchestra's sixth chief conductor in 2004. Serving before him in that capacity were Willem Kes (1888-1895), Willem Mengelberg (1895-1945), Eduard van Beinum (1945-1959), Bernard Haitink (1961-1988) and Riccardo Chailly (1988-2004). The orchestra has its own in-house label, RCO Live. In 2013 RCO Editions was launched, an innovative video magazine for iPad and iPhone.
- George Benjamin
- György Ligeti
- Helen Grime
- Maurice Ravel
- George Benjamin
- Kersten McCall
- Lucas Macías Navarro
- Royal Concertgebouw orchestra
‘Benjamin’s conducting is … spruce, fastidious, bristling with compact energy.’The Guardian